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Luka Doncic is undoubtedly having the best statistical year of his career. Yet, in a season where Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, until he went down with an injury, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have dominated the MVP conversation, Doncic has seldom been mentioned in that group. He recently got a small bump in attention after the Mavericks went on a seven-game win streak that saw them beat the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and a 35-point dismantling of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But even that is ignoring what he's been doing since the start of the season.

He's certainly come on strong over the past month and a half, capping off a February where Dallas went 8-3. Doncic also averaged 33.4 points, 10.3 assists, 9.6 rebounds, nearly two steals, and shot 51.7% from the field and 39.8% from 3-point range during that stretch. That strong showing in February has Doncic just beginning to shoot up the MVP ladder, and the recent tear he's been on is why Mavericks coach Jason Kidd believes he's positioned himself to be in that conversation.

"I don't think you win MVP in October, November or December," Kidd said in early February. "I think it's more likely you win it in February, March and April. And I think he's put himself in a great position to win the MVP."

The final month and a half of the regular season will really tell us who is out in front of the MVP race, and the Mavericks will have to finish strong if Doncic is going to finish near the top of that award race. But until then, here are three reasons why he should be getting more attention for MVP as we enter a crucial stretch of the NBA schedule. 

1. Doncic's putting up the best numbers of his career

It's not that Doncic is just averaging a career-high 34.4 points this season, which also leads the league, he's doing it on incredible efficiency. He's shooting 49.4% from the field, which is just a hair shy of his career best while shooting an even more impressive 38% from deep. The main knock on Doncic's offensive game has been his lack of consistent 3-point shooting. But you can't even criticize him for that anymore when he's shooting the 3 ball at such a high clip while also taking over 10 attempts a night from long range, the most in his career.

Luka Doncic
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There was a possibility that his assist numbers could drop with a full season of sharing the backcourt with Kyrie Irving, but he's also seeing career highs in that regard, too, with 9.7 assists a game. That ranks third in the league this season. It's not just the counting stats that show you how dominant Doncic's been. His true shooting percentage of 62.2% is the highest in his career, he has the fifth highest player efficiency rating in the league, and he also ranks in the top five of win shares, offensive win shares and VORP. 

To put that into even further context, Doncic is one of just three players in NBA history to average at least 30 points, nine assists and eight rebounds over a season, joining Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson (who did it four times). The season Westbrook did that he won MVP, as did Robertson one of the years he accomplished that feat. Doncic is doing that while shooting the ball far more efficiently than either of them did. In the Mavericks' past two games alone, Doncic totaled 75 points, 30 assists, and 20 rebounds, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Pete Maravich, and Robertson as the only other players to do this in a two-game span. To drill it down even further, Doncic is the only player in NBA history to average at least 34 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

All of this without even mentioning the 73-point historic performance Doncic put up against the Hawks in January, tying the fourth-highest scoring mark in a single game in NBA history. It may seem like Doncic is operating at a typical level, but this season he's been a notch above his usual output. 

2. Doing more with less

When you hold the Mavericks roster next to other MVP hopefuls, it's easy to see the disparity in talent between Doncic's running mates and the guys surrounding Nikola Jokic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard. If anything, it shows how impressive it is that Doncic has Dallas one game back of the No. 5 spot in the West. 

Dallas' offense runs through Doncic, and as heliocentric as it can sometimes seem, if he has an off game – which doesn't happen very often – the Mavericks aren't winning. Even when you just take him off the floor, the Mavericks are like kids learning how to swim for the first time. When Doncic is on the floor the Mavericks play like a 51-win team, when he sits, their expected win total drops to 32. The difference is a top-4 seed in the West and missing the playoffs entirely. 

When Doncic is playing, Dallas operates with a 121.1 offensive rating which would rank a hair behind the Boston Celtics for the best offense in the league. When he's off, Dallas is at the league average. He doesn't just run Dallas' offense he is the offense, and even with the addition of Irving to carry some of the weight and some of the trade acquisitions made, the Mavericks still only go as far as Doncic can carry them. In a season where the Mavericks have dealt with a rash of injuries to guys like Irving, who has only played 37 games, as well as other key role players, what Doncic has done to ensure the Mavericks don't just stay afloat but be in a position to keep pushing up the rankings is astounding.

3. Not just about the offense

For the first time in his career, Doncic is putting in a concerted effort on the defensive end on a more consistent basis than we've seen in the past. By no means is he a lockdown defender or even a good one, but he's put in the work to at least not be a complete liability on that end. He still has a tendency to let his emotions get the best of him, primarily if he doesn't like the whistle he's getting from the referees. Still, when he's locked in, you can tell that Doncic is taking more pride in becoming a better defender, he even said as much after Dallas' most recent win when he was asked why his defense has been such an emphasis right now. 

"Because it helps my team," Doncic said. "My team knows that when I'm engaged, everybody helps everybody to be engaged. So that's why I have to continue to do that."

You can see the stronger commitment on that end of the floor from Doncic. He's visibly more vocal, he's not as late on rotations. When he's guarding in the post, he's actually a problem to deal with. Doncic ranks in the 94th percentile as a post defender, limiting opponents to just 0.639 points per possession. That's not entirely surprising given his strong frame, but still impressive for someone who often gets criticized for his lack of defense. He gives up quite a bit of open 3s, especially if he has to get around a screen. Still, he's certainly taken a step in the right direction, and something Kidd has pointed out after the Mavericks' win against the Timberwolves in early January. 

"He doesn't want to just be known that he can play on one end at a high level," Kidd said. "He wants to be a complete player – and he's done that by guarding KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns). We asked him to do that tonight. We've asked him to guard Ant (Anthony Edwards) and everyone else. It's not that he's going to shut down everyone, but he's going to compete. He has pride, and he knows that he can move his feet. Sometimes he gets in the way, and sometimes he doesn't."

Doncic has been putting up the best numbers of his career across the board, he's shown more accountability on defense, and he has the Mavericks in position to secure a top 6 seed in the West, despite not having the same level of talent as other MVP candidates. That may not be enough to take home the MVP this season, but he's certainly done enough to be amongst the finalists.